The prospect of peace talks in Colombia to end a half-century-old guerrilla war is stirring optimism among many ordinary Colombians and scholars, even if they say the chances for reconciliation are uncertain.

Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos revealed in an address to the nation Monday evening that the government has been holding secret meetings with the country’s biggest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC by its Spanish acronym, in an effort to set up formal peace talks.

Such negotiations could end Latin America’s longest and bloodiest insurgency, with an estimated 50,000 to 200,000 deaths.